Growing Indo-Japanese collaboration in the economic and strategic interests of the Indian and Japanese bourgeoisie
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to India from December 10 to 13 marks a further strengthening of economic, military and strategic ties between India and Japan.
The most significant part of the agreements signed during this particular visit relate to military and nuclear energy cooperation. On both these issues, the India-Japan relationship had earlier not advanced much even when economic ties had been increasing. A major barrier to closer military collaboration was removed when the Abe government last year led the move to lift Japan’s ban on military exports. This is part of the determined drive of Japanese imperialism to openly build up an army for aggression, and actively participate in military adventures abroad, by rewriting the country’s post world war II constitution that barred such a course. It must be noted that Japanese imperialism is pursuing this militarist course despite massive opposition from the people of the country. During Abe’s visit, the way was paved for Japan to sell to India US-2 amphibious aircraft, and to transfer military technology and equipment, as well as share intelligence. This growing military cooperation is also reflected in the decision of the Indian government to invite Japan for the first time to participate in the joint Indo-US naval exercises code-named “Malabar”.
Japan has for long been opposed to India’s developing nuclear program, citing its opposition to India’s development of nuclear weapons. The signing of an MOU on civilian nuclear energy cooperation during this visit shows that the Japanese government has dropped much of its objections. This seems to be related to the difficulties in which the nuclear industry finds itself in Japan after the horrific Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011 and the strong opposition among Japanese people to reviving the nuclear reactors there. It must be noted that Japanese multinationals have a major stake in the nuclear power industry, with even the two main producers of nuclear reactors in the US (GE and Westinghouse) being owned or controlled by Japanese companies Hitachi and Toshiba respectively. Furthermore, current Japanese laws dictate that components made by Japanese companies cannot be part of nuclear reactors sold to countries like India without the Japanese government’s permission. Thus, the signing of the MOU on civil nuclear energy between India and Japan is in the interest of the multinationals of US and Japan in the nuclear industry who are eager to grab the Indian market at a time when the nuclear industry in the US, Japan and Europe is in crisis in the face of mass opposition to nuclear power plants.
On the economic front, the Modi government has been assured of US$ 29 billion in public and private Japanese investment in the coming five years, especially in infrastructure. News headlines in India during Abe’s visit were dominated by the agreement for Japanese funding of a high-speed “bullet train” between Mumbai and Ahmedabad, for which the Chinese had also bid. Unlike in many other deals, in this case the Indian government agreed that the loan for the train would be tied to the contract for equipment etc being given to Japanese or joint venture Japan-India companies. A total of 1.5 trillion Japanese yen would be made available by the Japanese government as financing and export insurance for Japanese businesses investing in India. Till the late 1990s, Japanese businesses had neglected India in favour of the booming Chinese market. Now, with growing tensions with China, continuing recession in Japan, and countries like South Korea overtaking them in the Indian market, Japanese companies are looking with greater eagerness to invest in India. For the Modi government, Japanese investment for its key infrastructure and other projects is greater than that of almost any other country, including the US and China.
The “India-Japan Vision 2025 Statement” issued during Abe’s visit marked the further elaboration of the “Special Strategic and Global Partnership” earlier formalized between India and Japan. Japan has agreed to support India’s bid for inclusion in APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation). It has also agreed to invest in infrastructural and other connectivity between India and South East Asia, thereby backing the Modi government’s “Act East” plans. A joint Japan-India drive to build connectivity through South East Asia would be a potential rival corridor to China’s recently announced “Maritime Silk Road” project.
In their discussions during this visit, the Indian and Japanese governments made veiled references against China’s activity in the region, by urging “all states to avoid unilateral actions that could lead to tensions in the region”, and by talking of working towards a more “stable and transparent” security architecture in the Indo-Pacific region which would involve the US and Australia as well. There is no doubt that the increasingly closer India-Japan relationship is being forged with an eye on China and that it is welcomed by the US. However, it would be wrong to assume from this that the Indian state has placed itself clearly in the US-led camp against China. As part of its drive to emerge as one of the major powers in the region and the world, the Indian ruling class still sees value in collaborating with China and in particular accessing its economic resources, even while playing the game of keeping China in check and drawing closer to China’s other rivals, such as the US and Japan.